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People with disabilities in wheelchairs at a recreational center.
© UNESCO/Jouval, Frédérique

Court of Justice of the EU: Italy condemned for failure to implement measures on employment and disability

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has condemned the Italian State (n° C-321/11 of July 4th 2013) for having failed to fulfill its obligation to implement, fully and correctly, Council directive 2000/78/CE, of November 27th 2000, establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation.

The decision of the Court originated from a procedure of infringement started towards Italy by the European Commission in 2006 and culminated in 2011 with the referral of Italy to the CJEU for not having correctly implemented art. 5 of the above mentioned directive in examination. In particular, the Commission claimed Italy had failed to implement the requirement for the employer to take appropriate measures to enable people with disabilities to have access, participate in, or advance in employment.

According to the Commission, particularly, contrarily to EU law, Italian provisions dealing with employment and disability (among which the law 68/1999) do not concern all disabled persons; they are not enforceable against all employers; they do not concern all the various aspects of the employment relationship; or they merely indicate an objective which requires subsequent implementing measures if it is to be achieved.

Upholding the remarks of the Commission, the CJEU concluded that the various measures adopted by Italy for people with disabilities employment access, even when assessed as a whole, do not require all employers to adopt effective and practical measures for all persons with disabilities, covering different aspects of work and enabling them to have access to, participate in, or advance in employment, and to undergo training. By not having correctly implemented art. 5 of the directive 2000/78/EC, Italy has therefore violated EU law.

Besides the merit of the decision, particularly significant is the fact that the Court, in noticing that the concept of disability is not directly defined in the directive 2000/78/CE, states that the word “disabled” should be understood as consisting of all persons affected with a disability, as it is defined by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.